By Lauren Saint-Louis
Every spring semester the Student Dance Organization under Brockport Student Government hosts a two-day event known as Dance Awareness Days. Current SDO Event Coordinator, Lauren Saint-Louis and Vice President, Erin Lowden organized and curated all aspects of this year’s successful occasion. Most recently held on Thursday, February 20th and Friday, February 21st, students, dancers and members of the Brockport and Rochester community participated in a variety of free dance classes in multiple and unique genres. SDO’s main objective as a Brockport organization is to reach out to those who may not be as familiar with the art form and provide accessible ways for those to learn and explore dance, ultimately raising interest and awareness.
What makes Dance Awareness Days unique is that it gives the community a chance to expand and create their own experience of dance, while also reconnecting Brockport alumni with current students. Many alumni return to participate each year along with current faculty, graduate students and a handful of guest artists from within New York State. Highlights from this year included classes in “Broadway Repertoire”, “House Dance”, “Ballet Stretch & Strength”, “Argentine Tango” and “New Jazz” to name a few. This year’s event was fortunate to have a well represented group of guest artists from Brooklyn, to Detroit and Buffalo. Summer Torrance, owner of “Body by Summer” in Brockport, taught her famous “Zumba” and “Turbo Kick” classes, while alumni Kristi Faulkner and Mark Schmidt taught “House Dance” and “Composition”. The artistic directors of Classical Ballet of Western New York, William Gentes and Susannah Dwyer also provided a men’s and women’s ballet technique class followed by a classical partnering experience. Collaborating BSG clubs were The Hip Hop Dance Club and the Swing Dance Society, who also taught classes in their expertise.
A new addition this year to D.A.D was a “Careers in Dance” panel discussion comprised of a group of seven alumni and moderated by current MFA candidate Julia Zdrojewski. In collaboration with the Living Learning Communities, the Office of Alumni Relations and the Department of Dance Chair, Kevin Warner, the evening consisted of an hour discussion and reception. Panelists included Mark Schmidt (MFA 2008), Kristi Faulkner (MFA 2010), Deb Lipa-Ciotta (MA 1989), Lindsey Rozzi (MFA 2002), Kelly Johnson (MFA 2011), Nicolette DePass (BS 1994) and Eddie Murphy (BS 1983, current Brockport faculty). They all spoke on behalf of their experience in respective facets of the dance field. Careers included artistic company director, public school dance education, higher education in dance, studio owner, strength and conditioning trainer, and professional performer. Valuable insight was given to aspiring students on how they could also achieve success in the dance field. Upon being asked “What is the one piece of advice you have for dancers about to graduate from Brockport?” or “What experiences or skills did you acquire at Brockport that you feel best prepared you for a career in dance?” each of them had extremely positive and unique responses that inspired many dancers and students in the audience.
Overall this year yielded over 300 participants, 30 classes and approximately 50 guests from surrounding areas. Dance Awareness Days is one of the main events that Student Dance Organization is honored to host every year and continues to receive growing support. Extending the experience of dance to the college and greater Brockport community has its own reward, and this year was no exception.